Most of us can think of a moment in our life when everything changed. This might have been a religious conversion, a mystical experience, or an encounter with the transcendent. Or it may have been a experience that had little to do with the spiritual realm, be it adopting a new way of life, changing one’s mind about a foundational belief, or leaving the community in which one was raised. Such seismic moments are often the most difficult to put down on paper. But when a writer is able to render an experience of this sort effectively on the page, it can make for the most powerful kind of story.
In this four-week course, we’ll explore how to write convincingly about metaphysical experiences, how to develop a personal transformation within the frame of a story arc, and how to make our experiences compelling to readers who may not share our worldview or beliefs. We’ll read memoir and personal essays on a range of life-changing experiences which will serve as models as you begin to think about how to tell your own story. Each student will draft, workshop, and begin revising an essay (or a chapter from a longer work), and will receive individualized feedback from me and from their fellow classmates. While our discussions will assume a basic familiarity with narrative nonfiction, the course is open to writers from all levels and backgrounds. No prior workshop experience is necessary.
Meghan O'Gieblyn has written essays, memoir, and criticism for n+1, The New York Times, The Guardian, Ploughshares, Oxford American, The Point, Guernica, The Lost Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction has received two Pushcart Prizes and was included in The Best American Essays 2017. She received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she won the Jerome Sterns Teaching Award. Her essay collection will be published in 2018 by Anchor Books.